Be sure to get a program at the door this winter.
The looks of the two Kosciusko County gymnastics teams will feature a handful of new faces, some thrust into varsity roles right from the get-go. So Warsaw and Wawasee gymnastics fans, head’s up.
Lady Warriors Heading Into Banner Year
The Wawasee gymnastics team will likely be a trial by fire as over the half the roster will consist of newcomers. While the team does have five returners, the drop off is swift as the rest of the team will consist of individuals with little to no competitive gymnastics experience.
Head coach Nika Prather, on the other hand, returns for her 25th season of coaching gymnastics at Wawasee, but will face one of her more difficult challenges piecing together varsity lineups as her team prepares for the LaPorte Pairs on Dec. 15 and the Blazer Invite on Jan. 3 before jumping into the dual season at extremely talented Angola on Jan. 8.
While the task could be worrisome, lone senior Kim Garber does provide a dynamic performer at the top of the list. Garber was an elite floor performer as a junior, finishing eighth at a tough sectional and was one spot higher on vault, just out of regional qualifying in seventh. With a background in dance only helping her floor routine, advancing past the sectional will still be difficult as a bulk majority of the sectional performers from last March were underclassmen. Also solidifying her beam routine will only help.
Junior Emily Allen also made strides, adding a bonus skill to her vault at sectional that could boost her overall performances this winter. Allen is an all-around performer whereas Garber has not worked much, if any, bars routines. Allen also has a strong floor routine to go with a competitive beam ensemble.
Sophomores Taylor Busse, Molly Smith and Deea Coy all had their moments last year, Coy’s coming at sectional where she landed a career-high 7.95. Busse, according to Prather, made the biggest overall improvement of any gymnast last season, and became a reliable option in all four disciplines. Smith fought through injuries all season, but did offer an improving floor routine while healthy.
New to the Wawasee roster are seven gymnasts in exchange senior Esther Hermann, sophomore Taylor Heck, and freshmen Ashleigh Frecker, Michaela Herendeen, Emma Hoyle, Mia Warstler and Paige Wright.
But the silver-lined question for Prather is can this group add to their workload after not having to carry the burden last year?
“This is going to be a very interesting, but exciting season for us,” Prather said. “We have some very skilled girls coming back, but at the same time, we will likely have some freshmen or girls without much competitive time performing varsity events for us at some point. I think our returners could do some really great things, but like always, we have to keep getting better as the season goes along.”
Tigers Reloading The Equipment
Warsaw is going to have just eight girls on the full roster, but among those eight are a few experienced and very skilled performers.
Leading the Tigers will be senior Jo Richard and juniors Abbi Baum and Molly Borchers. Baum likely will take the lead for Warsaw and was very close to advancing to regionals last season, placing in the top 14 in three sectional events and finishing just .5 points from making the bars regional. Baum was also 10th in the all-around scoring at last year’s sectional.
Richard is also very capable, and according to head coach Andi Calhoun, could really show an improved beam routine this season.
Calhoun also has liked the preseason work from sophomore Shannon Winslow and freshman Sam Alexander who could merge into top-four performers for Warsaw as the winter months pass. A pair of sophomores in Kristen Holladay and Katie Richard have experience in various areas, but will need more time. Freshman Ana Kolten will also need time to hone her craft.
“Abbi is probably my most consistent gymnast, we plan on bumping up the skills in her routines,” Calhoun said. “She is adding some really difficult skills to her vault and beam routines. She will have a Yurenchenko on the vault, which will help her scoring if she can execute it.”
Warsaw has added the Elkhart Central Blazer Invite on Jan. 3 to begin its schedule, which Wawasee will also be among the five teams, joining Plymouth, Lakeland and host Elkhart Central. Tough challenges await Warsaw on its home equipment this season with Homestead, Huntington North and Elkhart Central all visiting.
“Yes I do,” stated Calhoun on whether her team can compete with the big dogs this season. “I expect our returning gymnasts to bump up their skills. They should be able to figure out what is best for them as they go. Abbi should do very well, and I really think she can go to regionals.”
Training with Warsaw this season will be Tippecanoe Valley senior Barbie Kimmel, who will focus solely on the beam. Kimmel returns after placing 18th at the Wawasee Sectional last March with a 7.925 score, which was one place lower than Jo Richard.